Scaring People into Supporting Backdoors

Back in 1998, Tim May warned us of the "Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse": "terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers." I tended to cast it slightly differently. This is me from 2005:

Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare any public into allowing the government to do anything with those four.

Which particular horseman is in vogue depends on time and circumstance. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US government has been pushing the terrorist scare story. Recently, it seems to have switched to pedophiles and child exploitation. It began in September, with a long New York Times story on child sex abuse, which included this dig at encryption:

And when tech companies cooperate fully, encryption and anonymization can create digital hiding places for perpetrators. Facebook announced in March plans to encrypt Messenger, which last year was responsible for nearly 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of child sexual abuse material, according to people familiar with the reports. Reports to the authorities typically contain more than one image, and last year encompassed the record 45 million photos and videos, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

(That's wrong, by the way. Facebook Messenger already has an encrypted option. It's just not turned on by default, like it is in WhatsApp.)

That was followed up by a conference by the US Department of Justice: "Lawless Spaces: Warrant Proof Encryption and its Impact on Child Exploitation Cases." US Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on the subject. Then came an open letter to Facebook from Barr and others from the UK and Australia, using "protecting children" as the basis for their demand that the company not implement strong end-to-end encryption. (I signed on to another another open letter in response.) Then, the FBI tried to get Interpol to publish a statement denouncing end-to-end encryption.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on backdoors: "Encryption and Lawful Access: Evaluating Benefits and Risks to Public Safety and Privacy." Video, and written testimonies, are available at the link. Eric Neuenschwander from Apple was there to support strong encryption, but the other witnesses were all against it. New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance was true to form:

In fact, we were never able to view the contents of his phone because of this gift to sex traffickers that came, not from God, but from Apple.

It was a disturbing hearing. The Senators asked technical questions to people who couldn't answer them. The result was that an adjunct law professor was able to frame the issue of strong encryption as an externality caused by corporate liability dumping, and another example of Silicon Valley's anti-regulation stance.

Let me be clear. None of us who favor strong encryption is saying that child exploitation isn't a serious crime, or a worldwide problem. We're not saying that about kidnapping, international drug cartels, money laundering, or terrorism. We are saying three things. One, that strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security. Two, that weakening encryption does more harm than good. And three, law enforcement has other avenues for criminal investigation than eavesdropping on communications and stored devices. This is one example, where people unraveled a dark-web website and arrested hundreds by analyzing Bitcoin transactions. This is another, where policy arrested members of a WhatsApp group.

So let's have reasoned policy debates about encryption -- debates that are informed by technology. And let's stop it with the scare stories.

EDITED TO ADD (12/13): The DoD just said that strong encryption is essential for national security.

All DoD issued unclassified mobile devices are required to be password protected using strong passwords. The Department also requires that data-in-transit, on DoD issued mobile devices, be encrypted (e.g. VPN) to protect DoD information and resources. The importance of strong encryption and VPNs for our mobile workforce is imperative. Last October, the Department outlined its layered cybersecurity approach to protect DoD information and resources, including service men and women, when using mobile communications capabilities.

[...]

As the use of mobile devices continues to expand, it is imperative that innovative security techniques, such as advanced encryption algorithms, are constantly maintained and improved to protect DoD information and resources. The Department believes maintaining a domestic climate for state of the art security and encryption is critical to the protection of our national security.

Posted on December 12, 2019 at 6:11 AM • 47 Comments

Comments

Back in the dayDecember 12, 2019 7:21 AM

All the "reasonable" discussions happened in the 90's during crypto wars 1.0.

The amount of information available to law enforcement now compared to then is voluminous.

Criminal detective work is hard, like investigative journalism. The price of a "crime free society" is totalitarianism. Civil freedom to crime free is a slider; choose wisely.

DavidDecember 12, 2019 8:17 AM

"The price of a "crime free society" is totalitarianism"

So far the totalitarian societies have been anything but crime free.
See East Germany.
The evidence shows that the police get far to focused on control and crushing dissent, while ignoring crime

Ross SniderDecember 12, 2019 11:24 AM

@Bruce Schneier

What are your thoughts on the following possibly undesired outcome from the encryption-vs-backdoor conflict?

What if "lawful hacking" does win as a viable alternative to mandated backdoors, but this results in pushing law enforcement from local level (where local police don't have the training, budgets, sophistication for hacking) to the Federal level, strengthening the capabilities of the Federal police as well as expanding their authorization and scope.

Maybe that's okay because we might accept strengthening and authorizing federal police over the "four horsemen"?

One more thought. There's undoubtedly now a fifth horseman: Adversary disinformation campaigns.

JonKnowsNothingDecember 12, 2019 11:41 AM

Well, you do sort of have to admit that this scare mongering has been successful since dirt was invented.

No doubt the Roman Senate used the same technique to justify their pacification of Non-Roman Europe while extracting lots of goodies into the pockets of the Roman Elite. It sort of covers most of the ground of what we know of written history.

Sometimes the OH? happens although it may take a long time. Australia is now sort-of grappling with their actions during their in-coming/on-going relationship with the existing inhabitants of the continent.

At one time, I would think that everyone gets "caught" in the lies. And for some folks recognizing they have been "Lied To" is so horrific that they continue to accept and repeat these statements because not to do so would open huge emotional chasms about things they did because "they followed orders" or "did as everyone else". One is lucky indeed not to carry the scars both physical and mental from such determined belief.

I think we can see why some of these assertions don't hold up under scrutiny.

A) RING (aka Amazon) has a direct relationship with law enforcement. They don't need a warrant (USA) because you give Amazon-RING the data freely by installing the camera on your premise. It can provide data actuate to the square INCH.

B) On going reports of research in how to break into secured enclaves show what sorts of techniques are available to crack any system. While this may be news to me, it is no doubt been an active technique for a long time.

C) On the WTHECK? aspect is a confusing conviction of a 36 year decorated senior MET Officer because someone sent an unsolicited piece of verboten content to the Officer's WhatsApp account. The Officer stated they never knew it was there but was convicted because the existence of the content is verboten. The officer is about to be cashiered and one can expect the Dreyfus treatment to on full display.

The person who sent it was trying to be helpful in alerting authorities to something "bad" and instead of the "bad" person being investigated, the recipient is now and forever more on

"the sex offender register despite the prosecution accepting she had no sexual interest in children and had never watched the video."


It's pretty plain that Law Enforcement can get whatever they want, whenever they want. If they really are stuck, they can just lie. Works a charm.


ht tps://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/12/ring-used-parties-swag-to-build-700-police-partnerships-report-finds/

ht tps://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/12/scientists-pluck-crypto-keys-from-intels-sgx-by-tweaking-cpu-voltage/

ht tps://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/10/met-officer-in-child-abuse-video-case-faces-fast-track-dismissal

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair
(url fractured to prevent autorun)

ALDecember 12, 2019 12:02 PM

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ...".
It seems to me that the Congress is trying to restrict speech that can't be understood by the government. While we can debate whether this is noble or not, there is also the issue that legislation shouldn't supersede the constitution. If the constitution doesn't reign supreme, it isn't worth the paper it is written on. The first amendment needs to be revised to "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech unless the speech can't be understood by the government..."

In a country where crony and predatory capitalism runs amuck (think $500 insulin), where the government lies us into wars (Vietnam and Iraq), where they lie about war (Afghanistan) and where the government is at the beck and call of the 1 percent (Citizens United), I think a lot of this speech monitoring desired by the government will be used to monitor political organizing, particularly organizing against predatory and crony capitalism.

I look at this government and I don't see an entity that I want to have this capability. Ronald Reagan famously said the 9 most feared words were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". That implied that best intentions go awry, and they don't wind up helping. But, I don't see that last word as "help" anymore. Effects aside, I don't see good intentions.

JonKnowsNothingDecember 12, 2019 12:07 PM

@David

The evidence shows that the police get far to focused on control and crushing dissent, while ignoring crime..


Police/Law Enforcement have pretty much been that way since laws were created. To these folks there is no difference between dissent and crime-terrorist-anarchy-revolution.

If you consider exactly what it is police do: they protect the status-quo.

Anything that may alter that is considered criminal because dissent is about changing the status quo.

Ordinarily folks consider things like theft, murder, kidnapping as crimes because these are actions against an individual.

In the larger context though, these actions are a threat to the status quo and (sometimes)(occasionally) the police "DO SOMETHING". That "something" is to prevent a larger upheaval. Because its not always a 1v1 incident it can be M2M or M2One or One2M. And it really depends on where you are in the status quo on how you react.

So, if you are really expecting police to just stick to "crime", a quick review of current affairs world wide will show that concept is fractured. Pick a country, any country and take a peek under the covers.

Our views of what is criminal is highly manipulated. Even when you are pretty sure you "know", 50 years later you find out "you were wrong all along".

ht tps://theintercept.com/2019/12/12/animal-people-documentary-shac-protest-terrorism/


JonKnowsNothingDecember 12, 2019 12:12 PM

@AL

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ...".

Problem:

It's not a person.
It's a machine.
Machines have no rights.

cmeierDecember 12, 2019 2:03 PM

Have the U.S. courts finally agreed that computer code is free speech? What is the status of the various DeCSS cases? I'd bet that open source encryption will become the norm for those who don't want backdoors. The code will be printed on t-shirts and made into songs. It will be available for download from servers in countries that don't have requirements for backdoors. It is too late for backdoors. That clipper ship sank a long time ago.

Stuart LynneDecember 12, 2019 2:44 PM

The real problem is the inability of the government to limit the use of any invasive ability or technology.

We all agree (to some extent) that we want the government to do anything and everything to catch (any variant) of the Four Horsemen.

But the unfortunate problem we have is that once the government has a new ability or technology available they will use it for other law enforcement issues.

First, it is other high-level crimes, but over time it migrates to lesser and lesser serious crimes. Eventually reaching a level that matches the cost versus what law enforcement agencies are willing to pay. So it might not get to the point where it is used to enforce what is called petty crime (shoplifting, etc.) But anything more serious is probably fair game.

In a Tough on Crime justice system, any new tools will be used widely and predominantly for crime that has nothing to do with the Four Horseman.

Impossibly StupidDecember 12, 2019 4:03 PM

So let's have reasoned policy debates about encryption -- debates that are informed by technology.

No. Please, Bruce, stop feeding the false narratives of "both sides" and "balance". For those adhering to science rather than politics, there is no debate to be had. As I continually repeat on this blog, there is only one response that is necessary here: if the government has some form of encryption that they believe is the right solution, they need only supply a reference implementation and mandate (possibly under the threat of treason) that government agencies/employees start the transition process by first using it themselves.

@Stuart Lynne

We all agree (to some extent) that we want the government to do anything and everything to catch (any variant) of the Four Horsemen.

Oh, goodness, no. Whether it's the government or criminals, the threat to individuals remains abuse of power. As Nietzsche said, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." I do not accept the notion that the innocent masses must be subjected to even a qualified "anything and everything" that the government wants to do just because a few bad people exist. Any science-based approach to the issues involved understands that the cure should not be worse than the disease, and that there are confounding factors like false positives and false negatives. Anybody who does not have a grasp of basic principles like these should not wield any real power.

ChrisDecember 12, 2019 4:27 PM

@AL & @JonKnowsNothing:

Try this one:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

JonKnowsNothingDecember 12, 2019 8:30 PM

@Chris

Try this one:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

General Michael Hayden dispatched this years ago.

The important words in that article are against unreasonable searches. All warrants and searches are now deem "reasonable" and therefore this no longer applies. This is how the FISA Courts work too. It's all "reasonable" and never passes over the line.

There is a video of General Hayden explaining this a LONG TIME AGO. It got a huge laugh on the laugh-track-meter at the time. No one is laughing now.

iirc The video predates the "war heads on foreheads" explanation for "smart phones". Which is why we have them or did you think someone was being "nice" to the public when they rolled these out?

General Hayden is one dude you do not want to ever meet on a commuter train alone... An early glimpse of how "good" the NSA is but not too many were paying attention to the details.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hayden_(general)

...retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Videos can be found somewhere on the internet...

JonDecember 12, 2019 11:10 PM

Rule o' Thumb: If It Can Be Abused, It Will Be Abused

Which goes for pretty much all legislation.

And legislating that there be a backdoor that 'only the good guys can use' is akin to legislating that "2 + 2 = avocado". It just doesn't make sense. But people with power always want more, so off they go...

If it were up to me, I'd tell Sen. Graham to go right ahead. He might want to write legislation about the two integers whose ratio equal the square root of two while he's at it.

Jon

WeatherDecember 13, 2019 12:57 AM

In times past the government could pass law, that very little could slip through, when the Internet came the current model needs a new system, not modify.
Should the LE be able to use means to up hold the law, yes, but like above they were use to policing the society they were in, now it one world, so should the police of a country be worldly, knowing that would be hard to train people to be.

PhaeteDecember 13, 2019 2:24 AM

A glint of hope can come from the fact that most of the people who understand and have to implement the backdoor are against it, and almost all who want it don't have the skill to program it correctly.

Foreign products, open source alternatives, aggregated and obfuscated datastorage or streams, custom traffic paths etc.
These and other methods will flourish.

If not implemented worlwide, there will be many holes and it will not work as intended (small sidenote in Das Kapital)

And knowing humanity, it will never be implemented worldwide, too many power shifts that will be resisted by individual nations.

But there is no plugging that emotional backdoor of the community that wants to give up their rights because they have been told (over and over) that those rights enable the worst kind of criminals.

JonDecember 13, 2019 2:51 AM

@Phaete : Well put indeed.

that those rights enable the worst kind of criminals.

George Washington of the USA would have been hung by the neck until dead as a traitor if he'd lost. So would have been Vo Nguyen Giap and Mao Tse-Tung.

Jon

Clive RobinsonDecember 13, 2019 7:38 AM

@ Phaete, ALL,

A glint of hope can come from the fact that most of the people who understand and have to implement the backdoor are against it, and almost all who want it don't have the skill to program it correctly.

Actually two "glints" one of hope one of certainty, you've given the hope, so now for the certainty that will also bolster the hope ;-)

Irrespective of if backdoors can be implemented, thoughtfull crypto can only be stopped if communications are stopped.

Why? Because unlike "Crypto-Wars I" we have progressed to the point that those who most demand backdoors have way too much to loose by stopping communications[1].

All they can do is throw up strawmen to try to stop people thinking and desperatly hope that technology they can use will appear... But for various reasons it won't, and even that which does won't be effective, even though it migh "chill free speech" by most citizens.

Thus the big lie by those on the Hill is it will stop the four horsemen... In actual fact it won't and either they are very deliberately lying or in the worst form of self delusion.

To see why backdoors etc will not work, you need to realise that nearly everything the majority of US citizens need to survive is controled by communications. Communications that are inordinately complex and will become increasingly more complex not just with time but more importantly the size of the population and interdependent systems.

The increasing complexity issue is a problem that gives nightmares to engineers and others who have to maintain the communications infrastructure. Not least because they know "Communications needs power, and mostly power starts to fail when communications fail" it's an interdependency from hell of human making, that there is in the "short term free market world" "no money" available to sort out (something New Zeland had to find out the hard way and US PG&E customers are starting to realise).

But importantly as complexity rises the number of side channels available rises faster. Thus the opportunity to get around controls increases. Realistically communications in the US is beyond "central control" to the level required for even a half harted attempt at censorship. It's a problem that is not lost on those who benifit from section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to actually remain in business.

But you don't even need to use the many side channels that spring up with complexity to beat backdoors or censorship, they just add to the possibilities. Because at the end of the day natural language contains very high amounts of redundancy.

Where there is redundancy, there is entropy, and where there is entropy information can be transmitted between two parties covertly, without a monitoring third party being able to say let alone prove there is two let alone more channels of dirrect communications.

So with a little carefull thought two parties can communicate privately even though all their communications are monitored.

Whilst this was known back in WWII and earlier, Gustavus Simmons put it on a more formal footing with his "Prisoner's Problem"[2] and what was termed "subliminal channels" back in 1984.

However for various reasons a practical system needs three channels,

1, The overt channel.
2, The covert channel.
3, The authentication channel.

These are "nested" like "Russian Dolls" and sent down the communications channel which is assumed to be not only "public" but "monitored" as well.

That is the overt channel has entropy within it which is used to carry the covert channel which in turn has entropy that carries a message authentication system.

I've mentioned how to do this in a "practical for human use" way in the past. As well as showing that it can be implemented as securely as a One Time Pad system.

There are very many ways you can implement such systems and there are other techniques that can be added to not just increase reliability but detect active attacks and countermeasures.

Thus the question of censorship falls to being "detected" in all methods of communication. Obviously there are not enough human censors and even if there were few could understand complex communications systems let alone spot side, covert, or subliminal channels.

Thus the CDA230 problem arises of, "Can AI understand content", if it can not and currently that appears to be the case, then it can not reliably censor either.

But there is a way that "Standards designers" "Protocol Developers" and those that "build implementations" can help. Which is to add redundancy in many planes such that the number of in channel side channels is large. In a way the likes of plain HTML, XML and others do this as a necessity to suppprt the richness of features that only high levels of entropy can give you.

[1] So for those up on the hill who think "killing communications" is an option think back to why we nolonger hear about the, "Presidential OFF switch". It was a "non starter" before it was even suggested, and it would be even worse now[3]. Even if the US government started tightening down on communications now, the economic harm the US would suffer very quickly would fairly soon become not just apparent but intolerable not just to the citizens but the politicians themselves.

[2] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4684-4730-9_5

[3] By the "best estimates" of scientists an EMP burst over the US will technologically take the people in the US back to 1800 or there abouts... Remember the current US population is north of 1/3billion people currently and back in 1800 was a little over 5.3million so ~63 times as large today. Back in 1800 most US citizens were importantly effectively "continuously self sufficient" in water, food, sanitation, and energy and almost entirely unreliant on communications. The number of US citizens in that state today is probably considerably less than 1% of the population and effectively zero in the cities, towns and suburbs where most live (even in rural areas). If the communications "OFF switch" or equivalent is thrown, then water, food, energy, sanitation stops relatively quickly within a matter of an hour or two things such as fresh food orders on "JIT ordering" will go wrong, payments etc stop, in three or four days shop shelves will be empty not just of food but other essentials and OnLine shoping won't be possible. We don't need to realy ask what will happen when things do effectively stop, because we saw what happened with Hurricane Katrina. The reality back then as now is there is little individuals can do to survive even for short periods of time. But even in a less dire situation we've more recently seen those living in California having to come to terms with PG&E power shutdowns[4]. They have been a bit of a wake up call with spikes in petrol consumption and theft. Oh and people discovering with freezer foods spoiled they realy don't like the foods they have in their store cupboards and panteries and with their local shops and fast food outlets closed, having to drive 30mile round trips to get cheese burgers and the like and stand for an hour or so in the que...

[4] Entirely to blaim on short term free market thinking by those in charge. They viewed maintanence as an "unnecessary expense on the balance sheet" so for "shareholder value" they effectively stopped doing it. The result was their poorly maintained equipment and it's environs caused many fires. Which in turn caused law suits and effective bankruptcy. Thus to stop the potential for more fires, they turn their systems off if it looks like the wind is going to blow... Under current conditions this problem is going to get worse as other infrastructure goes the same way.

ROFDecember 13, 2019 12:13 PM

@JonKnowsNothing

.
.

It's not a person.

It's a printing press.
Printing presses have no rights.

SteveDecember 13, 2019 2:25 PM

It's perhaps interesting to note that the perp that Cyrus Vance was going on about having a "gift from Apple" was already in the slam.

If you don't get them on one thing, you'll get them on another. Maybe you get Capone on income tax evasion and not bootlegging and murder. They're going to slip up somewhere.

There are no perfect crimes.

Except in politics.

Sancho_PDecember 13, 2019 4:41 PM

They would never confront you and say:
“Hey, you are a suspect, show us your content to prove innocence”.
-> Cowards!

From their arguments one must assume they just want to watch porn.
Clandestinely. What a shame! What a shame for mankind.

Semi-OT: A great song with “clandestine” and “illegal” from Manu Chao:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm0hI0aJanc
(I esp. love the sound of the Oud)

ThothDecember 13, 2019 5:53 PM

@Impossibly Stupid, all

"if the government has some form of encryption that they believe is the right solution, they need only supply a reference implementation and mandate (possibly under the threat of treason) that government agencies/employees start the transition process by first using it themselves."

There is already precedence. Search for RFC 6507, RFC 6508 and RFC 6509. The MIKEY-SAKKE Key Recoverable End to End Protocol a.k.a Secure Chorus proposed by UK GCHQ's CESG arm and is supposedly already being supplied to and used by UK Govt themselves.

They do not recommend it for public use on their official Secure Chorus webpage and only for corporate and government use cases where communication security and also audit on the corporate communication contents in such regulated environments are necessary.

It uses Identity Based Encryption with reliance on a centralized "Trusted" Key Generator.

Original work was actually initiated by Adi Shamir himself and then continued by Boneh et. al. And Sakai and Kasaharu.

@all
It is better if the entire backdoor and frontdoor and "ethical legal" hacking itself are all outlawed regardless of nature of use cases.

Such a topic is a zero sum game unlike what many whom have said that this topic can continue in a win-win environment.

It does not happen.

Look at China, Russia and friends. It is a complete zero sum game. Totalitarian regime or free society. Pick only one.

You are either secure and private or you are not.

SpaceLifeFormDecember 13, 2019 6:26 PM

@ Clive

"Irrespective of if backdoors can be implemented, thoughtfull crypto can only be stopped if communications are stopped."

Spot on. You have been reading my mind.

Somehow.

Or, maybe, we are doppelgangers.

ThothDecember 13, 2019 6:33 PM

@all

Also to continue where I left off, note that even if they somehow have some sort of special backdoored/frontdoored algorithm or computer chip, we have discussed many times on this forum how to bypass it via a Box-in-a-Box technique. You could have enciphered and deciphered data outside of an observing back/frontdoored protocol or device (i.e. hand ciphering with Solitaire or XOR ciphering).

It doesn't end well for those who attempt to adopt such back/frontdoored protocols and inspection chips because it is double edged and can lash back easily.

Clive RobinsonDecember 13, 2019 6:57 PM

@ Thoth,

The MIKEY-SAKKE Key Recoverable End to End Protocol a.k.a Secure Chorus proposed by UK GCHQ's CESG arm and is supposedly already being supplied to and used by UK Govt themselves.

If memory serves correctly or if you prefer If I Remember Correctly, SAKKE has a number of issues that would certainly make me not trust it.

Firstly is the Private Key Generator (PKS) which to make it a little clearer is also known as the Key Management Server (KMS).

It uses a master secret to generate keys and both the sender and receiver have to trust it, which as we know from PubKey Certificate Authorities (CAs) is realy not a good idea. Because a number of CAs have shown that they realy don't control their "master secrets".

But SAKKE is in effect a form of stream cipher, thus any plaintext sent under a given session ID (think key stream offset) will if it has repeating plaintext have a repeating ciphertext which is realy not a good idea.

The other thing is it uses eliptic curves... I guess I don't need to say two much about the prevailing view on those with regards hidden backdoors and quantum cryptography.

Thus the best viewpoint is "give it a miss", because at the very least a shated centralized KMS realy is a very bad idea if you require "privacy" even within a government organisation.

A comment has been made before that the NSA Clipper from Crypto-Wars I era had a "Law Enforcment Access Field" which supposadly gave access to the encryption key. Only as Mat Blaze found and pointed out there was a way to fabricate a LEAF that was bogus but would work. Therefor the "lawfull access back door" had it's self in all probability been "backdoored" to prevent lawful access by those in the know... Which of course would have included the NSA and one or two other IC agencies...

The moral is,

    Don't trust centralized security services, as they can always let you down at some point, and you won't know when...

ThothDecember 13, 2019 7:24 PM

@Clive Robinson

"It uses a master secret to generate keys and both the sender and receiver have to trust it, which as we know from PubKey Certificate Authorities (CAs) is realy not a good idea. Because a number of CAs have shown that they realy don't control their "master secrets"."

and

"Don't trust centralized security services, as they can always let you down at some point, and you won't know when..."

That is correct.

That is what the GCHQ/NSA have ordered and they kinda got what they ordered.

I doubt they even care about the security of the Master Secret.

In short, IBE techniques with a global Master Secret is a very bad idea but those Govts loves it .... which we dont.

Jesse ThompsonDecember 13, 2019 7:38 PM

I've got a challenge for them: You can start talking to me about backdoored crypto approximately half-past when you've invented a hack-proof, failure-proof digital voting machine.

What's that, school children can still hack your voting machines simply by singing off-key nursery rhymes at them?

I'm sorry then, you fail to be qualified to create backdoors for crypto. If you cannot keep track of a vote then you cannot be trusted to keep our secrets for us, either.

Next!

Electron 007December 13, 2019 8:06 PM

Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse: terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers. ... Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers.

Some of this stuff really has to lose its power to scare over time. There is a single mother or female babysitter supervising her teenage girls on the internet, she discovers that there are bad scary men out there, and she calls the cops to demand that the bad scary men be locked up in jail. The safest possible outcome is for the girls to discover that older men are not only too controlling but insufferably boring. The missing father, of course, is part of the problem, but one would think that they would be hanging out with male classmates or boys their own age from their own school.

Unfortunately, the goals of encouraging virtue and opposing vice are not accomplished when town hall micromanages everyone's life online by instant extended Real-ID-compliant extended background checks.

JonKnowsNothingDecember 13, 2019 9:50 PM

@Electron 007

There is a single mother or female babysitter supervising her teenage girls on the internet, she discovers that there are bad scary men out there, and she calls the cops to demand that the bad scary men be locked up in jail. The safest possible outcome is for the girls to discover that older men are not only too controlling but insufferably boring. The missing father, of course, is part of the problem, but one would think that they would be hanging out with male classmates or boys their own age from their own school.

I'm a bit confused about this anecdote: The missing father, of course, is part of the problem... .

Is the father missing because:


  • He's buried in a veteran's cemetery?
  • He's been blow up by a drone strike?
  • He's been murdered in an Embassy?
  • He's been disappeared?
  • He's been picked up by armed persons in an unmarked car; rumors say he might be in a "Re-Education Center"?

Must have missed a chapter or three...

Clive RobinsonDecember 14, 2019 4:31 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Spot on. You have been reading my mind.

There are many things I can do, but "Mystic Mog" abilities are not on my C.V. yet ;-)

The reality is that two minds do think alike when seeing similar data from similar view points. Academia has seen this happen sufficiently often that we know it's not coincidence.

The real trick is to come up with simple ideas nobody has before, and hear them say "that's bl33ding obvious why did I not see that". Sometimes you realy know it yourself because your gut kicks you hard enough to make you draw breath and switch into high gear.

Back last century a friend had bought a lovely little cottage in Godalming, it was built around oak timbers and older than the Mayflower. Unfortunately he was getting woken in the night by "the knock knock knock of the death watch beatle". We were chating about it on the phone just after work one evening and he was telling me just how expensive it was to get sorted out due to the labour involved. I jokingly said he needed a "death ray". And he said what wood oak that could stop bullets be transparent to but grubs not, and without thinking as I'd built a few "radomes" when younger for satellite tracking I said "microwaves". At which point we both got the kick from our guts, and I said "Yeh Nuke the 13astards" and joked it would only take him five minutes to take the front off the microwave oven. When I got home an hour later, my then partner was quite puzzled when she saw me start cutting up bits of wood and cutting groves in the face then putting bits of frozen mince (ground beef) in and putting them together with electricians tape befote putting them in the microwave. She was even more surprised when I told her why, and she was even more surprised when in the first test the microwave not only cooked the mince right through in a few seconds but the wood hardly got warm...

The following morning I phoned my friend up to tell him the idea worked a treat, and he said he knew, and told me that he had run a series of searches on the Intetnet but unfortunately somebody had beat me to the idea by only a few months with a new product and had applied for a US patent...

Some you win some you don't quite get to the tape, but a good idea is still a good idea.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsDecember 14, 2019 4:35 AM

In the context of encryption (in transit, point-to-point, at-rest, or session-based) the government should probably first guarantee access to the physical locations of the potential pedophiles, terrorists, and removers of matteress labels and the environment they may inhabit.

Starting tomorrow, please send copies of your house/domicile door keys to your local G-woman. Please include the keys to your motor vehicle, your safety deposit box(es), and any other keys that are deemed necessary to haul you out with. We will be here waiting for them, oh the rubber hose in my hand--it's nothing.

JonKnowsNothingDecember 14, 2019 10:12 AM

@ROF
re:

It's not a person.
It's a printing press.
Printing presses have no rights.

In keeping with the theme of the post,

Various types of press used fixed plates or blocks. These can be read in reverse. Large projects were done with plates and various ways to etch information into the material or on top of it. Some of the plates can be scrubbed and reused.

In the case of typewriter ribbons if it used a one-time-use spool, all you needed to do in rewind it and read the impact lines.

Cylinder seals carry an imprint like some rings and other stamping devices.

Instant decryption and you don't even need the paper, maybe a bit of wet clay or the ability to read upside down in reverse.

In the USA, once you throw it into the trash can and it is placed on the street for pickup by waste haulers, you no longer own it. It belongs to the city or waste company. Law enforcement has open channels with them to access any garbage they want. Normally a warrant is needed but these days maybe not so much.


ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typewriter_ribbon
ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offset_printing
ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylinder_Seal

SpaceLifeFormDecember 14, 2019 2:49 PM

@ Clive

Are you suspicious of all Curves?

Or, just those known to be flawed and loved by gubmint?

@ Thoth

"I doubt they even care about the security of the Master Secret.

In short, IBE techniques with a global Master Secret is a very bad idea but those Govts loves it .... which we dont."

Pure speculation here :-)

But, that would be the plan to catch leakers and whistleblowers.

Fascists never tolerate freedom.


Pickle RickDecember 15, 2019 2:00 PM

Intersting:

"The result was that an adjunct law professor was able to frame the issue of strong encryption as an externality...."

You link here to Matt Tait's testimony.

Its curious that in this (https://www.lawfareblog.com/time-i-got-recruited-collude-russians) article Matt Tait states:

"(I’m not a U.S. citizen or resident, after all.)"


....wondering why is the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing "expert" testimony from people who are not US Citizens or even residents of this country? People who are, by definition, NOT US Patriots.... could they not find any subject matter experts who have a more natural-born and vested interest in this country?

....Did they not even look or consider this?

SpaceLifeFormDecember 15, 2019 4:16 PM

@ Pickle Rick

Those US citizens that could be in position to provide useful testimony, likely are in a pickle.

They may have clearance at some level and are precluded from speaking.

There may be some (sans security clearance) that do not want to get involved, because they know their reputation may be attacked.

There may be some that could help, but are not asked to help, because those asking the questions may realize they really do not want to hear honest answers.

Clive RobinsonDecember 15, 2019 7:00 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Are you suspicious of all Curves?

Good question, and the short answer is yes, because of unknown unknowns.

The likes of GCHQ and at one point the NSA had a view of,

    If we can not break it we can not trust it.

The reason being that as a rough rule of thumb if you can find one way to break an algorithm, then you can find all the ways to break that algorithm. But more importantly you would also have a good time estimate as to how long any given message wpuld remain secure.

The problem with the curves is that they are "mathmatical constructs" that we actually don'y know enough about to make security judgments.

We assume that there are "one way functions" yet we know that some supposedly secure one way functions have secret trapdoors. We assume that there is no way to fast factor a QP product. In neither case is there a proof I'd be willing "to risk the farm on"...

There are lots of assumptions and darn few general broad cover proofs...

So any advance in maths, even if it does not immediately appear applicable can sweep asside many assumptions and probably a few of the proofs as well.

That's not to say that all crypto proofs are a bit dodgy or based on to many assumptions. Some are not just easy to undetstand you can intuatively see why they are proofs. For instance the "All equal length messages are equally probable under the true random selection needed for a "one time pad".

meDecember 16, 2019 1:46 AM

By the way, "Scaring People into [whatever]" is the basic definition of terrorism. Lightweight and social terrorism in this case, but terrorism nontheless.

Clive RobinsonDecember 16, 2019 7:07 AM

@ Giving back doors to your enemies,

The author of the TechDirt article Mike Masnick says,

    Separately, he [Hayden] points out that backdooring encryption won't even help law enforcement do what it thinks it wants to do with backdoors:

If you read down the following quote of Michael Haydon you find, firstly the open statement of

    "Proposals that law-enforcement agencies be given backdoor access to encrypted data are unlikely to achieve their goals"

Which is a point a number of people have been making for a very long time, with some of us pointing out supporting history that goes back a century and realy should be more publically known.

But Michael Hayden goes on and qualifies the statment with a few examples. Of which is this one,

    "it will have no impact on encryption technologies offered by foreign companies or the open-source community."

Bares more consideration and amplification.

Firstly he is saying what many have yet to pick up on, which is,

    You can only backdoor what you can reach and own.

The US mandate on backdoors stops where the communications end point is that is in modern parlance "on your smart device". Because they "can not reach and own" beyond that point without some kind of usable connection.

That is it does not matter if the world and his dog can see the ciphertext generated by anything off the communications device and beyond the security end point, as long as the security end point is issolated from the communications end point, safely out of reach via any on device malware / backdoor. This point has been known for more than a century, and has at one point or another had proofs made with respect to it. Designing and producing equipment based on this used to be a function of the NSA before some US politicos for ostensibly political reasons said that they had to stop the "bespoke" and go for the "COTS" approach. Or more accurately go from secure, hardend and reliable to cheap insecure and unreliabe.

Secondly most forget what "Open Source" realy means. All to often people limit their thinking to "computer code" which is a mistake. Because it does not apply only to computer code but all written words that have transferable meaning.

Thus any "work" that transfers information that the producer of the work has decided to remove the implicit copyright limitations on is "Open Source". But even if the producer has not removed copyright "fair use" alowes you to make your own "work" provided it follows certain rules, and there is nothing to stop you making your "work" "Open Source".

Thus telling you how to make and use the likes of One Time Codes / Phrases by hand is covered by "Open Source". Likewise a work covering the OpSec asspects that tell you how to securely use them away from you mobile phone (air gapped) then take the ciphertext to the phone and send the ciphertext via SMS or Email etc from it is also "Open Source".

Thus such "Open Source" works tells you how getting around any backdoor or malware the US Gov can mandate can be done. This basic knowledge can then be expanded to take in more technical solutions such as "Tin Foil Chat" which is both "Open Source" software and hardware designs.

Once you realise that bypassing mandated backdoors can be that easy and the information on how to do it is in hundreds of books and thousands of web sites you come to a conclusion of,

    Backdoors can not work against the informed.

Which then leads to thoughts about what the LEO's etc are realy upto. That is the backdoor issue is but one small step on a longer journy they are making, the problem is we can only guess at where else their route will go and what if any is their final destination... The only thing we truley know about LEA's is that they want,

1, More Power,
2, More Money,
3, To grow ever larger.

That is they have a parasitic relationship to society as do all "Guard Labour" and like "weeds in the garden" they very regularly need cutting back to avoid causing harm.

JonKnowsNothingDecember 16, 2019 2:34 PM

@Clive Robinson @Giving back doors to your enemies

re: Open Source aka Knowledge


Probably the most feared item in any closed system is "knowledge". Restrictions abound world wide for what is allowed-knowledge and what is forbidden-knowledge.

Ideas are very hard to suppress.

Ideas and knowledge are dangerous to the Status Quo. Even in open minded countries there are known documents that if you look for them or read them or ask questions about them will land you a long time in jail.

TOR is one of them. It may save a journalist's life but if you look up anything about it, you will be On The List and don't be surprised if you are Pulled out of a Queue.

Restrictions on Knowing and Showing are self limiting as pointed out; unless-until we have a global-earth-government.

Enclaves of shared knowledge will sprout alternative ideas and views but these are already designated with every definition of "criminal" they can think of.

A failed strategy historically. A tragedy for individuals a certainty.

Clive RobinsonDecember 16, 2019 11:14 PM

@ JonKnowsNothing, Giving back doors to your enemies

Probably the most feared item in any closed system is "knowledge".

Actually in nearly all hierarchical systems as well. Because "Knowledge is power" especially where people behave dishonestly (which is true for almost all people in power).

Two examples are,

1, The Roman religions fell to Christianity, because Christianity offered "life after death". Whilst no proof of life after death was ever offered, or could be, belief in it was sufficient to make it an unstoppable force taking away the fear of death thus building in defiance against the way authority was exerted on those in the various classes of society (later variations when Christianity was the authority were excommunication, being buried dismembered, buried in non consecrated ground or threat of disinturning people from their graves).

2, Nearly all polititions lie in one way or another to gain position thus power. Most often it's by pretending to fit in with the mores of the more conservative vies of society (ask yourself how many atheists there are in those who stand to be representatives compared to the general population, likewise "family values" and faithfullness to their spouses etc).

The simple fact is those in power are usually their because of their underlying Antisocial Personaliry Disorders (ASPD -socio/psychopathic) traits, or other aberrant mental processes (Narcissistic Personality Disorder etc).

Oddly perhaps in reflection we find that most societies rather than deal with the issues, instead prefere to pander to those who have such abberant behaviours. And have tried in the past to make such deviations and their harms normalised via labels such as "paternalism" etc. Like most forms of abusive process it will not stop unless those who are being abused confront those with the abberent behaviours and either they genuinely change --if they can-- or are excluded from such positions or society it's self.

The problem is of course the oft said "80% of successfull people have ASPD traits". Thus the problem may well be how society sees and rewards what is perceived in society as "success". The simple fact is most people with ASPD etc fail and fail hard due to their inability to see beyond their own needs. We might call it "risk seeking" behaviours but the reality is whilst most fail and hurt those around them, probability tends to limit their "success" by just "risk seeking". Therefor other ASPD traits help carry them forward usually by manipulation of others. Thus they take the rewards for their risk seeking whilst others suffer the consequences of the failures.

This sort of behaviour can only work when information is controled or more correctly hidden from the society concerned, be it voting citizens or shareholders.

Thus for a given society to be healty it has to recognise it has to deal with how it is being abused. This is addressed by first realising it is being abused, then confront it, none of which will happen untill society stops deluding it's self about "success" and calls not just for greater transparancy but acts on it. This means "being responsible" which 60-70% of the adults in a given society do not wish to be.

Thus as the old saying has it,

    We reap what we sow.

Whilst Christianity has pushed this message (often as a method of control) the basic idea is far older and can be found in most societies. It's actually a lesson in "being responsible" "thinking ahead" and most importantly looking more at the downside and addressing that more than making unfounded projections.

Think of it this way you can look up how much "seed" you need for any given "area of ground", and you can project from this your potential harvest and profit... That is the upside view and is an unfounded projection. When you examin what can go wrong, you are looking at the downside and thus can see where things can and will go wrong if not correctly addressed. Being responsible means looking not just at the upside but the downside, evaluating it and working out how to mitigate the downsides and the resources needed and their costs.

Most people do not want to do this if there is another what they see as an "easier" option. That is they want the rewards / profit without being responsible, thus as a consequence do not examin the risk / downside.

Unfortunately this trait is what underlies all manipulation of people as the old saw has it,

    You can not con an honest man.

But whilst you can fool less than honest or lazy people, it's harder with others. Thus this is usually achieved by "hidden knowledge", lack of transparency enables this, it's why there is no such thing as a "free market" and many of the ills of society can be easily traced back to "hiddrn knowledge".

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